#MeToo and Pregnancy

MeToo Pregnancy

Unless you have been on another planet for the last couple of years, you have probably run into the anti-sexual harassment call to arms, #MeToo. If you are pregnant, you should know that you might be at higher risk for sexual harassment at school and in your workplace. If you have been a victim of sexual harassment or sexual abuse, pregnancy could be a time when painful memories resurface.

History of #MeToo (until 2018, but it keeps going…)

The phrase “MeToo” dates back to 2006. It was started as slogan to rally support for women who had survived sexual violence. It has now been reborn with a hashtag. The movement has exploded as a stunning string of high profile men who have been outed for sexual harassment or abuse. To review:

  • October 2017: Ashley Judd’s accusations against media mogul Harvey Weinstein go public.
  • October 12: Olympic gymnasts tell their stories on twitter about team doctor Larry Nassar.
  • October 29: Accusations surface about Kevin Spacey.
  • November 9: Allegations about Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore cause him to lose an election.
  • November 10: Several women accuse Louis C.K.
  • November 29: Today show host Matt Lauer is fired.
  • November 30: Garrison Keeler is fired from Minnesota Public radio, and Russell Simmons is accused of sexual assault.
  • December 6: Time Magazine gives its Person of the Year to sexual harassment “Silence Breakers.”
  • December 7: Senator Al Franken resigns.
  • January 20, 2018: Over a million marchers take to the streets around the country for the second Women’s March on the anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration.

#MeToo, Pregnancy, and Work

According to the National Women’s Law Center, harassment because of pregnancy is always sexual harassment. This type of sexual harassment can be verbal or physical, but in the workplace it often takes the form of discrimination. Pregnancy harassment can create a hostile work environment, and it is not uncommon. In fact, it has been increasing. About one out of five workplace discrimination claims filed by women are related to pregnancy. Examples include the following:

  • Not being hired
  • Being fired
  • Getting less pay
  • Getting a different job assignment
  • Being denied a promotion
  • Being laid off
  • Being denied benefits

This type of sexual harassment is illegal. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 prohibits pregnancy discrimination. The law applies to pregnancy as well as any medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. In addition to protecting you from discrimination, this law also requires your workplace to make reasonable accommodations for you. This could include providing lighter duties or disability leave.

If you feel you have been harassed, discriminated against, or treated unfairly at work due to pregnancy, you can get information about what to do at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website.

PTSD from sexual abuse may affect up to 8 percent of pregnant women. It can interfere with pregnancy and has been linked to low birth weight babies. Do not ignore the symptoms. Treatment is available, and it helps.

#MeToo, Pregnancy, and School

Women who are pregnant and going to school may be victims of sexual harassment. This harassment can be verbal, physical, or it may take the form of cyberbullying. It can come from students or teachers of both sexes. In all cases, it can be threatening, humiliating, and dangerous.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, pregnancy is the most common family-related reason why women leave school. Discrimination and harassment may play a major role in that decision. Examples of pregnancy harassment or discrimination include:

  • Being bullied or shamed
  • Being viewed as an easy target for sexual advances
  • Being excluded or discriminated against in class or other school activities
  • Not being provided reasonable accommodations, like excused absence if needed

Pregnancy harassment in any public or private school that receives federal funding is illegal under Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972. Just like any form of sexual harassment, pregnancy harassment often gets worse if it is ignored. If you feel that you have suffered any form of pregnancy harassment, discrimination, or abuse at school, you need to talk to a teacher or school administrator. Your school may be violating Title IX if you do not get help.

If you feel your rights are not being protected, you can file a complaint at the Office of Civil Rights website.

Sexual Abuse and Pregnancy

Of course, you should always let your pregnancy care provider know about any sexual abuse that occurs during pregnancy. If you do not feel safe, let someone know. You should also let your pregnancy care provider know about any past history of sexual abuse. Recent research suggests that the stress of pregnancy can trigger symptoms of post-traumatic stress due to sexual abuse that may have occurred years ago. These symptoms can include:

  • Intrusive and disturbing memories
  • Avoidance of any thoughts, activities, or places that trigger memories of abuse
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Depression

PTSD from sexual abuse may affect up to 8 percent of pregnant women. It can interfere with pregnancy and has been linked to low birth weight babies. Do not ignore the symptoms. Treatment is available, and it helps.

Bottom Line

Pregnancy is a good time to be involved in #MeToo. Pregnant women are at higher risk for sexual abuse, harassment, and discrimination. Harassment can occur at work and at school. You need to know your rights and report any sexual harassment or abuse. Be one of the Silence Breakers.

Christopher Iliades
Dr. Chris Iliades is a medical doctor with 20 years of experience in clinical medicine and clinical research. Chris has been a full time medical writer and journalist since 2004. His byline appears in over 1,000 articles online including EverydayHealth, The Clinical Advisor, and Healthgrades. He has also written for print media including Cruising World Magazine, MD News, and The Johns Hopkins Children's Center Magazine. Chris lives with his wife and close to his three children and four grandchildren in the Boston area.

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